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An AirAsia X Airbus A330-300 (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Hisham Qadri)

AirAsia Group Announces Major Fleet Groundings, Looks Towards Freight Operations

Malaysia’s AirAsia Group Berhad announced on Wednesday its decision to ground approximately 90% of its fleet, which currently consists of more than 200 aircraft across Asia, including slightly over 100 aircraft in Malaysia. This decision had to be made due to an ongoing wave of Covid-19 infections in Malaysia, where daily cases have been consistently reported in the thousands in the past week.

AirAsia Malaysia, the largest low-cost carrier in Malaysia, expects demand to start recovering in August, allowing it to restore flight operations to all 17 of the domestic airports it once served by October, Chief Operating Officer Javed Anwar Malik said at a CAPA Centre for Aviation event on Wednesday.

However, a full return to pre-Covid-19 passenger demand levels across Asia is not expected until around the third quarter of next year, Malik said.

The AirAsia Group has been struggling to stay afloat amidst the pandemic, having last month reported its seventh consecutive quarterly loss despite ongoing efforts to sustain and secure liquidity.

Looking Towards Freighter Operations

Part of such efforts include starting up a dedicated freighter service as the demand for air cargo has been steadily increasing worldwide.

The logistics venture of AirAsia Digital, which goes by the name Teleport, is strengthening its position as an essential air logistics partner in Asia with the operation of its first-ever freighter aircraft, a dedicated Boeing 737-800F, alongside the conversion of two Airbus A320 passenger aircraft which had passenger seats removed for optimal cargo capacity.

Converting the two A320s from passenger aircraft to freighter aircraft was said to have been performed by Asia Digital Engineering, the fully-owned subsidiary of the group, and by Thai AirAsia for the aircraft that will be based in Thailand.

Set to begin freight operations across Asia from the beginning of the third quarter this year, the freighter will operate out of the Teleport hub in Bangkok, Thailand. The additional freight capacity will help to solidify its route network between busy regions such as China, India and Southeast Asia, enabling the improvement of connectivity to and from Teleport’s long-haul markets.

As for the two converted A320 aircraft, they will be based in the strategic hubs based in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Through these hubs, the A320s will continue their operations to important cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Yangon.

“We are excited to share this expansion as we strengthen our logistics footprint across Asia,” Adrian Loretz, Chief Operating Officer of Teleport, said of the new startup. “It was evident at the end of last year that the demand for cargo capacity was not going to be served with passenger belly capacity alone in the long run. So, we evaluated the option to utilize dedicated freighters to transport cargo. This is also part of our strategy to build the capacity and connectivity to offer 24 hours door-to-door delivery across all of Southeast Asia.”

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